Why the LCNHT is a Top Bucket List Trail
The United States of America is arguably the most beautifully diverse country in the world. Every state has its own unique climate, landscape, and culture. Because of this, the idea of a cross-country journey and a bucket list trail has been a dream for many dedicated travelers. For most Americans, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of cross-country trails is the “Triple Crown of Hiking.” The Pacific Crest Trail runs from Canada to Mexico via the states of the West Coast. The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) also runs from Canada to Mexico via the Rocky Mountains. The Appalachian Trail rounds out the trio with a beautiful trail from Maine to Georgia. All three of these iconic trails give travelers an unforgettable look at the beauty of America’s landscape and walking the entirety of their length, or even a portion, is a goal of many travelers.
However, today we want to highlight another trail. One that not only highlights the beautiful landscapes of the United States but mixes it with a unique look at the history of America, and some of its most authentic towns and cities. That trail is called the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (LCNHT). Though not a full-on hiking trail like the others mentioned above, the LCNHT has some unique features. These are truly unmissable experiences that should make it a worthy addition to any United States travel bucket list. Let’s dive into why.
Overview of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is a cross-country trail that follows the historical route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Starting in Pittsburgh, the trail traverses 16 states before ending on the Oregon coast. At 4,900 miles long, it doubles the length of the Appalachian Trail, and is almost 2,000 miles longer than the CDT. It is not a backcountry hiking trail. Instead, it is a mix of terrain that can be traveled by foot, bike, car, or boat. This makes it the perfect trail for families and people of all ages. Due to its accessibility, you can commit to a long journey across it all or just a day trip to a certain section. It is a historical trail through some of the country’s prettiest scenery. It also puts the culture and people of each place along the trail at the forefront.
What makes the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail a bucket list destination?
There are many factors that go into making the LCNHT a bucket list trail. Whether you go on a vacation for natural wonders, history, new cultural experiences, or simply to relax, the trail has you covered. The National Park Service administers the trail and is set on promoting the theme of geotourism. This will be explained below. With that being said, here are the top five reasons the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail should be on your bucket list.
1. The Natural Wonders
Whether it’s the mountains of Glacier National Park, the rocky shores of Cannon Beach, or the vast green hills of Missouri, the LCNHT is packed with natural beauty. The trail is in close proximity to numerous National Parks, National Monuments, State Parks and Wildlife Refuges. The eastern portion of the trail goes through riverside parks and rolling green hills. The central part goes through golden plains and rocky canyons. The western part goes through mountain peaks, dense forests, before ending the trail on the ocean shore. With so much variety you are sure to find something that works for you.
2. The Towns and Cities
At its length, the trail was destined to go through some of the classic big cities of America. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, Bismarck, Billings, Vancouver, and Portland are the biggest cities along the trail. Attractions like the Kentucky Derby, Gateway Arch, National WW1 Museum, Henry Doorly Zoo, and Powell’s Bookstore (the world’s biggest) can be found along the route.
The real adventure, however, is when you get out of the cities into some of the less visited towns that scatter the trail. Places like Maysville, Kentucky and Hood River, Oregon are unique places that are off the usual tourist path. Though smaller in size, these towns are where you will find small businesses, local spots to eat, and cultural activities that give a truly authentic side to American life. Some of the things found in these towns include festivals, breweries, historical places, and parks. You can connect better as a tourist to the locals, and get a unique collection of stories and experiences.
3. Geotourism and Sustainability
Geotourism is a term coined by National Geographic. It is defined as “tourism that sustains or enhances the distinctive geographical character of a place—its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture, and the well-being of its residents.” The LCNHT team, which includes the National Park Service, the team at Solimar International, and the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, have made this the focus of the trail. What this means is they want you to experience the most authentic and unique trip possible. The NPS may administer the trail, but almost all of the land is owned by other stakeholders like small businesses and state tourism organizations. With the Lewis and Clark Travel website, they can submit local points of interest. This way you know all the points along the trail map are handpicked by locals who want you to experience the food, drink, events, and attractions that you can’t experience anywhere else.
4. United States History
As previously mentioned, the trail follows the route that the Lewis and Clark expedition took across the USA. The route is covered in places that were essential to their expedition. However, the trail is so much more than just Lewis and Clark History. Whether it’s the Oregon Trail, Battlefields, Petroglyph covered caves, or a historic home, the trail has it all. It also works with AIANTA to promote and preserve the tribal lands along the trail. Each reservation has interpretive centers, restaurants, museums, and other points of interest. It is one of the more comprehensive and inclusive trails in terms of Native American focused destinations. No matter what part of history you are into, there is a spot along the trail that gives you a look into the past.
5. Variety of Activities
The variety of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is its greatest strength. The food along the trail goes from Kansas City BBQ to Oregon Salmon. The drinks include Kentucky bourbon and Washington red wines. You have farm plains mixed with the Rocky Mountains, and waterfalls mixed with canyons. There are events that range from local farmers markets to internationally recognized festivals. You can bike or kayak, walk or drive. In addition, there are National Parks and small town art galleries, as well as city museums and Native American interpretive centers. Simply put, the trail will give you the most variety in American culture and landscapes of any major trails in the country. This trail can be explored over a day trip or a multi-month journey. This makes it perfect for young couples, families, retirees, or solo adventures. No matter how you travel, the LCNHT can meet your needs and exceed your expectations.
How to begin planning a bucket list trip along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
Interested in traveling to a place that showcases America’s natural wonder, cultural traditions, and historical roots? The Lewis and Clark travel website has got you covered. It tells you the best things to do along the trail, and some of the more unique places to stay. Additionally, our LCNHT blog has articles on trip inspiration, ways to experience the trail, and logistical information. For any of your questions about how to best experience the trail, the website is the one-stop shop.
We hope that this article has convinced you to put the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail on your bucket list. It is a way of seeing the most authentic and beautiful off the beaten path destinations in the United States. Whether you want to spend a weekend in one of its many cities, or a month crossing it on a road trip, we hope to catch you all on the trail soon. Happy travels!
If you wish to learn more about the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, visit our website!
To learn more about the five regions of the trail, visit here!
Please visit here for information on getting involved with the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
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